Are NBA Players Overpaid? (Shocking Truth)

NBA players seem to be getting ridiculous contracts year after year.

LeBron James alone made $121.2 million in one year. But are NBA players overpaid? If so, why?

The NBA has the highest average salary among all the leagues in the world. This is due to factors like the league pay structure, salary caps, league revenue, popularity, and endorsements. So, compared to other athletes, they’re paid a little more but compared to normal professions, they’re overpaid.

But there is more to this than meets the eye. Let’s find out.

Are NBA Players Overpaid?

You may have seen a lot of news articles and videos showing the mind-blowing figures that NBA players make. After all, the best ones make over a fifty million dollars a year!

So, we won’t blame you if you thought that these players are overpaid even among their co-athletes in other sports. And you’re right!

Unbelievably, the NBA has the highest average salary out of all the major sports in the world. Here’s a table from Statista comparing their average salaries in 2019-2020:

League (Sport)Average Player Salary
1. NBA (Basketball)$8.32 million
2. IPL (Cricket)$5.3 million
3. MLB (Baseball)$4.03 million
4. EPL (Football)$3.97 million
5. NFL (American Football)$3.26 million
6. NHL (Hockey)$2.69 million

One look at this table and we can see that the NBA’s average player salary is almost double of IPL.

But you should take note that these are just average player salaries. Some players in all of the leagues could be making more or lesser per year than the average.

Just look at this list of the highest paid sports athletes in 2022 according to Forbes:

Athlete (Sport)Total Annual Earnings (Salary + Endorsements)
1. Lionel Messi (Football)$130 million
2. LeBron James (Basketball)$121.2 million
3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Football)$115 million
4. Neymar (Football)$95 million
5. Stephen Curry (Basketball)$92.8 million
6. Kevin Durant (Basketball)$92.1 million
7. Roger Federer (Tennis)$90 million
8. Canelo Alvarez (Boxing)$90 million
9. Tom Brady (American Football)$83.9 million
10. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Basketball)$80.9 million

In this top 10 list, we can see that the 4 athletes are in the NBA. The next sport with the greatest number of players in the list is football with 3 players.

So, we can safely say that a lot of NBA players are paid well. But why exactly are they paid so much?

Why are NBA Players Overpaid?

It isn’t a secret that NBA players enjoy the most earnings out of all sports as we saw from the lists above. But why exactly are they paid so much? Where do NBA teams get the money to pay them this much?

Here are the four reasons:

1. Higher player salary average than other sports

The NBA collectively made $8.8 billion in revenue in 2020. They’re ranked third in terms of the highest earning sports leagues in the world with NFL at first and MLB at second.

So, one of the main reasons that NBA players are paid more than other athletes on average is because they get more from the cut.

Basically, NBA owners and players have their own shares from the total revenue. In the NBA, the players roughly get half of the total revenue share while the NFL players get less than half.

2. The NBA has lesser players than most leagues

In connection with the first reason, the NBA has significantly lesser players to pay than the NFL.

The NBA collectively has 450 players across all teams while the NFL has about 1696 players.

The NFL makes more money than the NBA as a whole. But when they divide the revenue to more players than the NBA, obviously the average salary is lesser.

So, in turn, NBA players are paid more than NFL players and other leagues on average.

3. More money from endorsements and deals

Another reason why NBA players are paid significantly more is because they’re just more popular.

Although soccer is the most popular sport in the world, a lot of NBA players are also known globally.

This in turn lets them get more endorsements and deals from various companies compare to say NFL players. Because NFL is mostly just popular on North America, they can’t demand more on endorsements.

4. Popularity of the NBA

The overall popularity of the NBA is more than what a lot of other major sports can compete with. For one, NBA players just have more fans than NFL players in social media alone.

This is largely due to the fact that they’re known more globally compared to leagues like NFL, NHL and IPL.

With this, the league gains more revenue from TV broadcast, endorsements, ads, merchandise, and stadium attendance.

Why are Professional Athletes Paid More than Other Professions

After seeing all the staggering figures that professional athletes make, you might be wondering why they’re paid more than other professionals.

You could even argue that teachers, firemen, and doctors should be paid more than these athletes since they directly impact lives.

Although there are a lot of debates over the pay disparity of different professions over the years, it all boils down to profit.

Entertainers in general which athletes belong to, bring in significant amounts of money to everyone involved.

Plus, a lot of people pay to be entertained especially by pro athletes who compete with only the best worldwide. So, it makes sense that they would make more money than other professionals.

Ideally, we would want to see other professionals getting what they deserve but the sad reality is that it’s more entertaining to watch a basketball game than to watch firemen.


NBA players are overpaid because they bring a lot of revenue to the league. They’re paid a lot but compared to other athletes, they’re all in the same realm.

However when you compare NBA players against professionals like teachers, then they’re a lot more overpaid.

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